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Jaime Zapata was murdered while his partner, Victor Avila, also with ICE, was wounded on February 15th as they traveled on a Mexican highway on their way back to the United States. Espinoza said his gang mistakenly believed the SUV the federal agents were traveling in as one that was similar to those driven by rival cartels. The federal vehicle had diplomatic plates that identified it, though Espinoza says they didn't see them. Mexican law prohibits American law enforcement from traveling with weapons.
The agents noticed they were being followed and then one of the two vehicles passed the agents and cut them off, at which time, up to ten gunmen exited both vehicles and began their brutal assault.
It's also believed the gunmen were looking to steal the vehicle, too, though Zapata and Avila managed to escape. This is the second time in recent months cartels have opened fire on Americans and then claimed mistaken identity. Even as the violence continues to escalate, it is rare for American law enforcement agents to be attacked, though recent events may be affecting that trend. While it's never entirely safe to travel near the Mexican/U.S border, the past several years have resulted in brutal killings of Americans and Mexicans.
The second federal agent, Victor Avila, was returned to the United States with a gunshot wound in his leg. It is believed he is recovering in a California hospital. President Obama congratulated the agencies involved with ensuring the arrest of Espinoza and six other gang members. Meanwhile, ICE Director John Morton released his own statement which read, in part, ''...we are encouraged by this action and appreciate the efforts by Mexico to bring Special Agent Zapata's killers to justice''.
No word yet on what those arrested will eventually be charged with, though Espinoza was picked up on charges related to a 2009 incident.